Touching on Joe Biden

I try to keep this blog non-political, and this blog post is no exception.

It’s neither to support Joe Biden nor to denounce him. It’s just about my own personal experiences and thoughts.

As most people know, Biden is preparing to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He was Obama’s vice president, so he’s got that going for him. And he was a U.S. Senator for 36 years. He might be a little long in the tooth, but so are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

However, Biden’s a bit “handsy.” He apparently touches other people, especially women, a little too freely. And since he’s one of the dread ilk who cause all the world’s problems, he has no excuses for his behavior. It’s not like he … well, I’ll stop there to avoid getting overly political. :: cough :: Bleach. :: cough ::

So what’s my take on Biden’s malfeasance?

First, some people are just handsy. As far as I can tell, it’s usually neither sexual nor even about power. They just want to touch you, whether as part of how they communicate or as a misguided attempt to show empathy. Many elderly people (Biden is 76) are like that.

Personally, I don’t like people touching me uninvited. I once had a boss who did it. He was a good guy, a retired Army sergeant, and it was just his way. I put up with it for three or four times. The next time he did it, I gently and without accusation asked him to stop it. He did. We got along fine. He just didn’t know that it made me uncomfortable.

Second, of course, sometimes it’s not just being handsy. It’s about sex, or power, or both. I’ve been in that situation, too.

When I was working on Capitol Hill in my 20s, I attended a party where some federal agency high-up put his hands on me and offered me a job. The principal qualification was to be his love bunny during off hours. Ahem. I politely declined, told him I wasn’t interested, and wished him well. Problem solved. I don’t have flashbacks, didn’t need therapy for it, and almost never think about it. Christine Blasey Ford I am not (for one thing, I didn’t make it up).

From afar, it looks to me like Biden falls into the first group. Handsy but basically innocent. It could be worse than that, but he doesn’t give off that kind of predatory vibe.

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t disqualify Biden solely because he’s handsy. Let him campaign for the nomination. If he knows that being handsy hurts his chances but he can’t stop doing it, then it tells the Democrats (and everyone else) something important about him. If he stops doing it, then it shows that he’s learned his lesson. People can evaluate him on other criteria.

What Democrats want to do about the situation is up to them.

Check out my new book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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2 Responses to Touching on Joe Biden

  1. J P says:

    It is hard to know when one era is passing into another, but easy to look backwards and recognize that it’s happened.

    The days when a politician (especially a Democrat) could be a handsy (to use your term) old white guy may be over. I laughed when these news stories started to surface because I could see that some among the new orthodox were concerned about Joe’s front-runner status.

    Personally I think it’s a generational thing. I once worked with an aging lawyer who would call every waitress “Hon”. He meant no disrespect, and was trying to be friendly. But I saw more than one young server bristle. The older ones had no issue and often called him Hon or sweetie right back.


    • N.S. Palmer says:

      Agreed. I worked as a server in high school and college. A lot of the older female servers called almost everyone “hon,” “sweetie,” or some version of it.

      The timing makes it plain that the stories are prompted by Biden’s rivals for the Democratic nomination. The honest part of the process (the word “honest” sounds strange in a statement about politics) is that Biden would have to handle the same kinds of challenges in a general election. As long as his accusers don’t literally lie, as people did about, e.g., Roy Moore and Brett Kavanaugh, it’s at least legitimate enough for politics.

      Liked by 1 person

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